By Laura Brisson

The New Year is an opportunity to reflect on and improve certain aspects of our lives — including our personal finances. According to a report from the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology, only eight percent of us actually achieve our New Year’s resolutions. This month, set realistic goals to build and protect your wealth throughout the year. Here are a few tips to help you establish a strong financial start in 2017.

Prevent Cyber Attack

With the increase in online shopping, hackers are working overtime to gain access to your accounts. This is especially important if you use the same login credentials for multiple sites. One way to help keep your information safe is to create different usernames and passwords for each of your online financial accounts. Hackers count on habits, and they often use spyware to steal a username and password from one account to gain access to your private information in others.

Calculate Your Net Worth

The New Year is always a good time to reevaluate your net worth and make progress towards your financial goals. Taking a close look at all your assets and liabilities helps paint a clear picture of where you should prioritize your current spending and saving, and where you need to make adjustments in your spending and saving habits.

Adopt a Budget

How well did you stick to your budget in 2016? Year-end credit card statements offer a snapshot of where you spent your money. In order to adopt a realistic budget for 2017, track your spending for one month to see where your money is going, and then create a sustainable budget that balances expenses versus income. Resolve to eliminate unnecessary expenditures for one month and determine a better way to use any extra funds.

Combat Credit Card Debt

Focus first on credit cards and loans with high interest rates and resolve to pay them down as soon as possible. You may be surprised to learn that your holiday credit card debt has been slowly climbing up. The bad news is that with interest rates projected to keep rising in 2017, your payments will increase as well. The sooner you get out from under the burden of high-interest debt, the sooner you can put that extra money to work for you.

Reset Your Retirement Savings

If you have the opportunity to save for your retirement through a 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plan sponsored by your employer, it is easier to max out your retirement contributions by contributing a set amount each month. Even if you’re covered under a retirement plan at work, you and your spouse may also be eligible to contribute to traditional or Roth IRAs. Your financial advisor can help you understand and navigate the guidelines surrounding contributions.

Allocate Extra

Increase monthly loan payments for auto, college or mortgage debt. Making an additional partial loan payment each month can help reduce debt faster and potentially save thousands of dollars in interest. You can make an additional full mortgage payment each year by simply paying half your mortgage note every other week, which is simple if you have the payments automatically deducted from your checking account.

No matter what your situation, everyone should have a financial plan to track throughout the year. It is always wise to meet with your financial advisor to review your financial resolutions and obtain professional advice on how you can best achieve them.

Laura Brisson is the senior vice president of First Tennessee Bank.

 

Mercury newspaper racks are located at the following locations:

The Meeting Street Inn

Clair's Service Station at 334 Folly Rd.

Harris Teeter on Houston-Northcutt Blvd.

The Square Onion in I'On

Mt. Pleasant Library on Mathis Ferry Rd.